Entry in progress—B.P.
Wikipedia: Confidence trick
A confidence trick (synonyms include confidence game, confidence scheme, ripoff, scam and stratagem) is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their confidence, used in the classical sense of trust. Confidence tricks exploit characteristics of the human psyche such as dishonesty, honesty, vanity, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility, naïveté and greed.
The perpetrator of a confidence trick (or “con trick") is often referred to as a confidence (or “con") man, con-artist, or a “grifter”. Samuel Thompson (1821–1856) was the original “confidence man.” Thompson was a clumsy swindler who asked his victims to express confidence in him by giving him money or their watch rather than gaining their confidence in a more nuanced way. A few people trusted Thompson with their money and watches. Thompson was arrested in July 1849. Reporting about this arrest, Dr. James Houston, a reporter of the New York Herald, publicized Thompson by naming him the “Confidence Man”. Although Thompson was an unsuccessful scammer, he gained reputation as a genius operator mostly because Houston’s satirical writing wasn’t understood. The National Police Gazette coined the term “confidence game” a few weeks after Houston first used the name, the “confidence man.”
(Oxford English Dictionary)
confidence trick (game, etc.): a method of professional swindling, in which the victim is induced to hand over money or other valuables as a token of ‘confidence’ in the sharper. confidence man: one who practises this trick; a professional swindler of respectable appearance and address. orig. U.S.
1849 Daily Picayune (New Orleans) 21 June 1/4 ‘Well, then,’ continues the ‘confidence man’, ‘just lend me your watch till to-morrow.’
1856 Spirit of Age (Sacramento, Calif.) 14 Mar. 4/1 G. W. Meylert’s now about town, playing the confidence game and making grand attempts at swindling.
1866 E. A. Pollard Southern Hist. War II. xxv. 477 President Davis..was surrounded by adventurers and ‘confidence-men’.
OCLC WorldCat record
Bennett, the Confidence Man and Bigamist.
Publisher: VINCENNES, INDIANA
Edition/Format: Article Article
Publication: THE VINCENNES WEEKLY WESTERN SUN, (May 22, 1869)
Database: The Civil War: 1855-1869